Fall 2011 Physics Newsletter

A Note from the Chair

By Dr. Ravindra Pandey

Professor and Chair

Greetings! The atmospheric physics group is receiving a major boost in capability for performing interesting new research in cloud microphysics. Allowing access to a full range of relevant temperatures and pressures in a laboratory, a new cloud chamber will help clarify the roles of thermodynamic factors in the formation of clouds and precipitation. This facility, supported by the National Science Foundation, will represent an important addition to the U.S. scientific infrastructure for laboratory-based environmental studies.

Research in atmospheric physics has a long history in our department. Investigation of the upper atmosphere was initiated by Prof. Donald Yerg in 1955, who sadly passed away this summer. Prof. Yerg had a long and distinguished career at Michigan Tech, which includes a Research Award in 1957.

The focus on novel research in atmospheric physics is carried out in Prof. Claudio Mazzoleni’s Environmental Optics Laboratory where, among other activities, undergraduate student Kyle Gorkowski participated in the multi-institutional DOE-funded field study called CARES (Carbonaceous Aerosol and Radiative Effects Study) that took place in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas.

A recipient of this year’s Michigan Tech Teaching Award is Mike Meyer, who was recognized for his significant contributions in the teaching of algebra-based introductory physics courses and the development of modern physics laboratories. Specifically, he is to be commended for the incorporation of basic physics concepts to develop critical thinking, problem solving, and decision making skills in the minds of first-year students at Michigan Tech.

Congratulations to Prof. Donald Beck and Andrea Lappi for 30 years of service with Michigan Tech. Prof. Beck was instrumental in starting up the PhD program in Physics in 1987. Ms. Lappi is a key person in the department with her invaluable services as the departmental coordinator.

Many of these achievements have been possible only with your encouragement and support of the department. As you decide on end-of-the-year donations, please consider a contribution to the department’s endowment. Your continued support is deeply appreciated.

Best wishes for a joyous holiday season and a happy and prosperous New Year.

Current Research

Raymond Shaw

Raymond Shaw has been at Michigan Tech since August 1999. He is part of the department’s atmospheric physics group, and his research deals mostly with processes relevant to clouds.

Clouds are important not only because of their part in the water cycle, but also because of their great climatological importance. For example, a cloudy planet absorbs much less sunlight than a cloudless one, but a cloudy planet also cools differently by emitting infrared radiation from different heights and, therefore, different temperatures.

One factor important in determining the distribution and duration of clouds is the rate at which precipitation forms. One can think about precipitation formation as the destabilization of a colloid, for example. Rain forms through two pathways: a thermodynamic one involving the formation of ice in mostly liquid clouds, and a mechanical one involving collisions and coalescence of cloud droplets. Shaw’s research group is studying both pathways. They study how ice formation is catalyzed by the presence of particles, and specifically the role of the water-air interface in that process. Does ice tend to form preferentially in bulk water or at the water surface? Evidence from two of their experiments points to both possibilities, so further studies are delving into this mystery.

Of relevance to the second rain formation pathway is the collision rate of cloud particles and its dependence on particle size, turbulence, and electric charge. One research tool used extensively is a speaker-driven turbulence chamber with 3D holographic particle tracking.

More recently, Shaw is involved with the development of a large cloud chamber facility, in collaboration with other Atmospheric Sciences faculty on campus. This ~3 cubic meter chamber will allow for simulation of realistic thermodynamic environments for cloud formation within the bottom 10 km of Earth’s atmosphere.

Shaw’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation for 12 years, as well as NASA and the Department of Energy.

Partha Pal and Amalia Anderson

Dean's Award for Outstanding Scholarship

Former physics graduate students Amalia Anderson and Partha Pal are recipients of the Dean’s Award for Outstanding Scholarship. They were nominated by the Department of Physics. Pal and Anderson also received Finishing Fellowships from the Michigan Tech Graduate School.

Research in the News

Physics research again received much notice in popular and scientific media. Some of the top stories originating from Michigan Tech were:

Cloud Chamber: Raymond Shaw is leading the development of a cloud simulation chamber to be housed in the Great Lakes Research Center. The story was in Michigan Tech News, The Detroit News, UpperPeninsula dot Biz, CBS Detroit, and the Mining Gazette.

Carbon Nanorods: Yoke Khin Yap had another image published on the cover of Carbon. The nanorods contain nitrogen donors intended to enhance the electrochemical properties of the material.

Nanotech Filter: Yoke Khin Yap and Jaroslaw Drelich from Materials Science and Engineering developed a filter of carbon nanotube-coated stainless steel mesh. The story appeared in Michigan Tech News and was published in Carbon. In April Yap was interviewed by WLUC TV6 for the evening news.

PICO Mountain Observatory: Claudio Mazzoleni and other Michigan Tech researchers study aerosol behavior at Mt. Pico in the Azores. Recently featured in Michigan Tech News, the PICO projects have received multi-year funding from NSF and DOE.

Awards and Achievements

For groundbreaking work in nanotechnology, Professor Yoke Khin Yap and then-PhD student Chee Huei Lee received Michigan Technological University’s Bhakta Rath Research Award.

Senior Lecturer Michael Meyer is a recipient of the 2011 Distinguished Teaching Award.

Physics graduate student Wil Slough is a recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award at Michigan Tech.

The Michigan Tech chapter of the Society of Physics Students (SPS) has been selected as one of the 2010 Outstanding SPS Chapters.

Eric Petersen is the 2011 recipient of the Ian W. Shepherd Award for most outstanding physics graduate.

The Presidential Council of Alumnae recognized physics graduate student Marwa Abd Almoneam as a Woman of Promise.

Michigan Technological University honored Department Coordinator Andrea Lappi and Professor Donald Beck for 30 years of service.

Physics graduate student Abhishek Prasad won an award in the 2010 Materials Research Society Fall Meeting. Prasad was one of the 50 finalists in the Science as Art competition for his entry entitled “Stem of nanoflowers.”

Recent Funding 

Research funding over the last year for the Department of Physics topped $1,137,000. Funding has been provided by the Vice President for Research Office, SURF, NSF, DOE, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, Marshall University Research Corporation, the Pacific Northwest Division of the Battelle Memorial Institute, and the Nevada System of Higher Education-Desert Research.

Department Updates

Professor Ulrich H. E. Hansmann is a faculty member in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at University of Oklahoma. He is now an adjunct professor in the Michigan Tech Department of Physics.

Former postdoctoral research associate Lin Pan joined Cedarville University, Ohio, as a tenure track assistant professor.

Yoke Khin Yap was promoted from Associate Professor to Professor.

Researcher Nelly Iceta visited during the summer. Vyom Parashar is a visiting researcher this fall.

Postdoctoral research associates Maksim Kouza and Chee Huei Lee have left the department for other employment. New research scientists and postdocs Rodrigo Garcia Amorim, Emanuele Bonamente, and Jiang Lu have joined us this year.

Dr. Elena Semouchkina from Electrical and Computer Engineering is an Adjunct Associate Professor with the physics department.

Image: The Physics Graduate Poster Session was held on April 21, 2011, in the Fisher Atrium. Seven students presented research posters.

Wil Slough

Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award

Physics graduate student Wil Slough is a recipient of the Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award. Slough was nominated by the Department of Physics based on very high student evaluations from the large class PH2100 - University Physics I - Mechanics. The award is presented by the Michigan Tech Graduate School.

Recent Degree Recipients

2011, Destination

  • Amalia Anderson, PhD, Hendrix College, Arizona
  • Jessica Galbraith-Frew, MS, University of Utah
  • Partha Pal, PhD, University of Michigan
  • Paul Rojas, MS, Colorado State University
  • Renee Batzloff, BS, Univ. of MN Duluth
  • Nick Black , BS, Michigan Tech Physics
  • Kyle Gorkowski BS, Los Alamos National Lab
  • Matt Guthrie, BS, Univ. of Texas at Austin
  • Valerie Hallfrisch, BS
  • Karl Meingast, BS, Michigan Tech Forestry
  • Dan Miller, BS, UMBC
  • Eric Petersen, BS, University of Illinois
  • Erin Scanlon, BS, Georgia Tech
  • Anthony Szedlak, BS, Michigan State University
  • Justin Wojdula, BS, Univ. of Nevada, Reno


  • Sanjay Karna, MS, University of North Texas
  • Chee Hui Lee, PhD, Case Western Reserve U
  • Jiang Lu, PhD, Michigan Tech Physics
  • Archana Pandey, PhD, Univ. of Alberta, Canada
  • Zhuoyuan Wu, PhD, Seagate Technology

Astro Outreach

Professor of Physics Robert Nemiroff gave three talks this year about APOD, Astronomy Picture of the Day. 2010 year highlights from this online gallery were presented at the Franklin Institute Science Museum in Philadelphia, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and for Google Tech Talks in Mountain View, California. Nemiroff also gave a talk and led a Star Party at Fort Wilkins Historic State Park in Copper Harbor. Undergraduate physics majors Justin Holmes and Ryan Connolly assisted at the Star Party, which attracted about 40 stargazers

Dean's List

Spring 2011 4.00

  • Adler, Michael C JR SPH
  • Beaulieu, Travis W SR SPH
  • Dobbs, Jeremy S SR SPH
  • Furlich, Greg D JR SPH
  • Gockenbach, Mark S SR SPH
  • Hallfrisch, Valerie A SR SPH
  • Leonard, Edward M SR SPH
  • Petersen, Eric A SR SPH
  • Wilm, Joseph D SR SPH

Spring 2011 3.50-3.99

  • Black, Nicholas A SR SPH
  • Brennan, Mackenzie P SR SPH
  • Connolly, Ryan P SR SPH
  • Fan, Xin Xin SR SPH
  • Guthrie, Matthew W SR SPH
  • Jacobson, Darcy M JR SPH
  • Knecht, Carlo A SR SPH
  • Kralapp, Charles W FR SPH
  • Laxo, Adam N SO SPH
  • Makoutz, Emily A JR SPH
  • Meingast, Karl M SR SAP
  • Nelson, Arin D SR SPH
  • Nerem, Matthew P SR SPH
  • Nicklas, Brent C SR SPH
  • Plamondon, Tyler J SR SPH
  • Radermacher, Matthew S FR SPH
  • Scanlon, Erin M SR SPH
  • Solfest, Peter M SR SPH
  • Sutton, Katelyn P SR SPH
  • VanderLaan, Derek J JR SPH

Graduate Spotlight

Saikat Mukhopadhyay

I joined the Department of Physics in the Fall of 2007 as a doctoral student. I am privileged to have Professor Ravindra Pandey as my advisor. Till spring 2009, I worked on three different areas of research: metal and metal oxide clusters, nano-bio interactions and quantum transport in mesoscopic systems. Presently, I am investigating the challenges and possible usages of nano-structured materials in bio-medical applications.

It is well known that nano-structured materials can be used in many applications, but interfacing the biological macromolecules (for example DNA/RNA) with nano-materials has been a challenge. This is due to the lack of the knowledge about the physics and chemistry behind these interactions and also to the size of the biomolecules. Therefore, I started to build up a basic understanding about the interaction of nano-materials with the building blocks of the macromolecules such as nucleobases and amino acid molecules. Our results were well accepted in the scientific community and got selected as a highlighted article in [nanotechweb] Lab Talk. Currently, I am applying the knowledge derived from my earlier projects to design biosensors out of nano-bio conjugates. During the summer (2011), I worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where I applied my experience on the mesoscopic transport phenomenon to the problems in polymer physics.

I am an active member of the American Physical Society for the past three years and attend meetings and conferences that they organize. My other activities include playing badminton, volleyball, racquetball and soccer. Additionally, I enjoy the beauty of Upper Peninsula and like to travel to different places.


We extend our deepest appreciation to friends and alumni who have made recent gifts or pledges to Michigan Tech. Did we miss your contribution? If so, contact physics@mtu.edu. As always, we appreciate your continued interest in the Department of Physics at Michigan Technological University.


  • Michael C. Coleman ‘69
  • Pamela ‘66 & Floyd Croy
  • Andrew Drews ‘84 & Sue Inderhees
  • John ‘50 & Eugenia Evans
  • Walter ‘48 & Edith Gabriel
  • Kenneth ‘79 & Lynn Genutis
  • Thomas ‘63 & Dona Gould
  • Joel Graber ‘87 & Lindsay Shopland
  • Frank ‘58 & Shirley Hastedt
  • Philip Kaldon ‘88 & Deborah Morrow
  • Walter ‘64 & Margaret Kauppila
  • James ‘59 & Carole Kauppila
  • Wayne ‘97 & Regina Keranen
  • Clyde ‘50 & Gertrude Kimball
  • James ‘66 & Kathleen Kortge
  • Arne ‘52 & Joyce Koskela
  • Jack ‘62 & Kaethe Labo
  • Norman ‘61 & Sara-Jo Larsen
  • Robert ‘61 & Eugenia ‘64 Lind
  • Robert ‘70 & Nancy ‘73 Martin
  • David ‘61 & Terri McLaughlin
  • Ronald ‘64 & Hermine Meyer
  • Samuel ‘63 & Brenda Ochodnicky
  • Lin Pan ‘08 & Hong Wei Yu
  • Thomas ‘69 & Sharon Plutchak
  • Gary E. Rhoney ‘65
  • Joseph ‘76 & Anne Root
  • Joseph Roti Roti ‘65 & Stephanie Pagano (dec)
  • William ‘88 & Kathryn Siskaninetz
  • Burris ‘64 & Katherine Smith
  • C. John ‘64 & Kathryn Umbarger
  • Roger ‘66 & Linda Urbaniak
  • SriramaSwaminat Venkataraman ‘98
  • William ‘78 & Kathleen ‘77 Wilson
  • David E. Woon ‘84


  • Gary P. Agin
  • Keith & Wilma Baldwin
  • Paul & Elsie Hinzmann
  • John & Sherry Jaszczak
  • Edward & Nina Nadgorny
  • David Nitz & Mary Marchaterre
  • Terrence & Susan Wilm

Yoke Khin Yap & Chee Huei Lee

Bhakta Rath Research Award

Yoke Khin Yap (left) and Chee Huei Lee (right) have received Michigan Tech’s Bhakta Rath Research Award for their groundbreaking work in nanotechnology. Professor Yap and now-graduated PhD student Lee invented a technique for synthesizing boron nitride nanotubes. These materials are strong, perfectly insulating, and superhydrophobic. The collaboration between Yap and Lee has led to nano-carpets of these nanotubes for potential use as high-strength composites and ceramics.

This is the second Bhakta Rath Research Award. The new award is named in honor of Bhakta B. Rath, Michigan Tech alumnus ‘58, who dedicated years to promoting science and engineering research. The award recognizes those who conduct exceptional scientific and technological research in anticipation of the future needs of the nation.

Mineral Museum Reopens

The A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum was dedicated at its new site on Sharon Avenue last August by the Michigan Tech Board of Control. The project was made possible by 1957 Michigan Tech alumnus Tom Shaffner. Grandchildren of A. E. Seaman attended the event. The museum is open now, with two galleries and a gift shop ready. More galleries will be added. Professor of Physics John Jaszczak is adjunct curator of the museum.

Michael Meyer

Distinguished Teaching Award

Senior Lecturer Michael R. Meyer was honored in the Lecturer, Professor of Practice, or Assistant Professor category for 2011. Meyer was recognized for his sweeping improvements to introductory physics labs , including new sections, technology utilization, and insightful pedagogical approaches. He has lead the development of online courses, supervised dozens of teaching assistants, and trained high school physics teachers. A typical comment about Meyer from a student was “He is the friendliest, funniest, and most enthusiastic professor I’ve ever had.”

Senior Spotlight

Greg Lau

Greg Lau is a 5th year physics and computational mathematics dual major. He has been on the Dean’s List for numerous semesters and was inducted into Sigma Pi Sigma in Spring 2010. Greg is an active member of the Society of Physics Students, helping out with such events as Family Physics Night. Early in his academic career, he did computational electrostatics work under the guidance of Dr. John Jaszczak. The project is still ongoing. During the Spring 2011 semester, Greg was studying abroad at Australia National University. There he did work on fitting a model of the plasma formed in the H1 fusion reactor to experimental data obtained from the reactor. Greg plans on obtaining his PhD in physics via computational research, though he currently has no specific field in mind. His knowledge of physics would not be what it is today without the great friends he has found in both faculty and students, and he is immensely thankful for their help.

In Memoriam

  • Robert A. Janke
  • Aurilee R. Smith
  • Donald Yerg

Physics Faculty 1977/1978

Image: Standing (L to R): Mike Sorochman, David Lucas, Dave Chimino, Charles McEwan, Sung Lee, Paul Shandley, Keith Baldwin, Don Daavettila, Bob Mount, Marilyn Hanson, Dave Kallainen, Jeanne Musich. Seated: Charles Mandeville, Vasant Potnis, Phil Parks, D. O. Wyble, Gary Agin, Ian Shepherd (from 1978 Keweenawan, MTU Archives and CCHC).